Nuclear physicist Cebo Ngwetsheni has authored a ground-breaking paper on nuclear polarisation titled “Continuing Influence of Shell Effects at High-Excitation Energies”. His paper has made it into one of the world’s leading scientific journals, Physics Letters, the publication that published the Nobel-deciding discovery of the Higgs Boson, also known as the God Particle.

According to the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) website, the paper was published as Ngwetsheni graduated with his Master’s in Nuclear Physics. His thesis is titled “Polarisability effects due to the low-energy enhancement of the gamma-strength function”.

Ngwetsheni is quoted as saying he had always wanted to be either a scientist or an engineer – something that would allow him to do research and also to work with cutting-edge technology.

“It was a tough decision for me but ultimately I was more interested in the fundamentals of physics, and I came to UWC to pursue it,” he says. “In my third year, I started developing a real passion for nuclear physics: getting to research deeper into the core of matter was interesting. I found I understood it better than other subjects – and I wanted to understand it even better.”

He said his view of success was not only about his own career but also about helping others.

“I want to have an impact when it comes to the development of technology and knowledge and to set an example for people from communities like mine – to help them see that there is so much they can do, so much they can be,” he said. “My dream is to contribute to the ultimate quest for understanding the natural world and to inspire others so that they will see that they can do it too.”

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Co-author and thesis supervisor Professor Nico Orce said on the UWC website, “Cebo has achieved a beautiful piece of physics that is far out of the box. Among other breakthroughs, our work reveals a new spectroscopic probe to search for magic numbers at high-excitation energies. It’s exciting in what it means for science…”

Trying to explain the intricacies of his paper in simple language, Professor Ngwetsheni said, “This new work permits us, for the first time, to investigate magic numbers at high excitation energies in the nucleus.”

Beyond his research and focus on nuclear physics, Cebo Ngwetsheni is a part-time lecturer in radiography at the Central Peninsula University of Technology and has a huge interest in farming.

“I’m not really interested in the corporate world, but I do like the idea of running a successful business,” he said on the UWC website. ”Farming is something I grew up with, thanks to my grandparents, and it’s actually very interesting. Getting it right requires a lot of thought and constant learning, and that’s something I’m passionate about.”